bout 100 pro bono counselors will offer free sessions starting Monday to people suffering from lingering mental health issues after Hurricane Harvey, an effort organized by the Texas Psychological Association.
The organization, made up of 1,500 psychologists from around the state, called on its members to provide services to the public.
The sessions will be conducted via FaceTime, Skype, phone calls or in-person visits, when possible.
“Trauma is complex, people are complex., there are so many variables that determine how people respond,” said Rebecca Hamlin, co-chair of the TPA’s disaster response team.
Disaster recovery can be demarcated into four stages —hero, honeymoon, disillusionment and reconstruction — said co-chair Judith Andrews, adding that they are neither absolute nor independent of each other.
“The emotional journey during a disaster takes on different kinds of characters as you progress,” Andrews said. “Communities go through these also, not just individuals.”
Immediately upon impact by a natural disaster, an individual might take on a heroic mindset, Andrews said. The stage is characterized by a strong motivation to begin the recovery process immediately and spring into action.
With the adrenaline and fight or flight reaction of the initial recovery efforts gone, the honeymoon phase follows, with the community feeling cradled by first responders and law enforcement.
As government relief agencies and volunteer organizations begin to pull out, communities and individuals enter the disillusionment phase.
“At that point, people can really assess what they are left with,” Andrews said. “They were loved and they were helped, but it’s not going to be enough.”
The final phase, Andrews said, is reconstruction — individuals and begin to accept their losses and recognize that their communities have been permanently changed.
“They’re still grieving,” Andrews said. “But there’s resolve — real resolve — to get through this.”
Not everyone experiences the phases the same way, or at all, Andrews said. Those who were more directly affected by the disaster or had pre-existing mental health issues will see higher levels of stress than those who experienced it secondhand.
Most of the time, Andrews said, individuals undergoing traumatic stress don’t prioritize their mental health, which can lead to their physical health declining as well.
Hamlin said the sessions are being held in an effort to encourage the community to talk about their experience with a professional, where there are issues talking to friends or family can’t fix, as well as use coping skills they may not have ever had to before.
They are designed to be an immediately accessible resource to those who need to seek professional counseling. With enough time, and enough patience, by talking about what happened, individuals can begin to heal, Andrews said.
“Communities arrive at a place where they are well again,” Andrews said. “They’ll never be the same, but they’ll be well again.”
To find out more about TPA’s post-Harvey services, visit their website.